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Zimbabwe trying to revive cotton production
Nov '15
Faced with falling production, the Zimbabwean Government is trying to persuade cotton farmers to stay on or those who have left to return to producing the crop by offering greater rewards as part of efforts to sustain the textile sector, a leading newspaper of the African country has reported. Zimbabwe's cotton production has fallen from a peak figure of 353,000 metric tonnes in 2000-2001 to 102,000 tonnes this year.

Last year the country produced 136,000 tonnes of cotton, which has now been placed in a basket of crops the Government is targeting including soyabeans, tobacco and maize.

Zimbabwe's Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa in his Budget speech, said the Government recognised the importance of reviving cotton farming given significant agro-linkages with the textile industry, and involvement of over 300,000 smallholder farmers.

During the height of cotton production, the crop was a major source of income and livelihood for rural communities around the Gokwe, Sanyati, Rushinga and Checheche areas and accounted for close to a fifth of agricultural exports.

Other factors undermining cotton production included decline in international cotton prices, against the background of competition from such substitutes as synthetic fibres.

“The focus is on cotton because of its many value chains. The possibilities are enormous. To that extent I have provided and indicated that for the next three seasons I would be giving free inputs to cotton farmers.

“This is primarily intended to get the farmers who had turned their backs against cotton to go back into cotton production.

“They were now moving into tobacco, maize even when they know they are coming from very marginal areas in terms of rainfall, such as Rushinga, Gokwe and Chiredzi,” said Minister Chinamasa.

Zimbabwe's cotton output has declined despite an installed ginnery capacity of 427,000 tonnes of seed cotton.

The decline in cotton production has also left Cottco, a major player in the textile industry, with about 35 per cent market share, on the verge of collapse. A number of other private players have also exited the cotton market.

Chinamasa said inaction on the part of Government can only lead to total collapse of cotton production, with dire consequences across the textile industries' value chain.

In order to reverse decline in cotton farming, the Government is trying to revive cotton production through a restructured Cottco.

The measures that Government is introducing include a Government takeover of $52,7 million Cottco debt and conversion into equity; cost restructuring; resourcing the Cotton Input Financing Scheme in support of the 2015-16 season and registration of farmers.

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